Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why I Don't Teach Graphic Novels

Okay, it's almost time to get ready for Day 2, so this is gonna have to be pretty darn fast. I'll probably put my foot in my mouth again but oh well.

So I'm STILL not done going through the NCTE program - I managed to narrow it down to TWO PANELS during session H, which was nice after the TWELVE that I liked in session F - and I keep seeing panels about graphic novels. Which ones to use, why to teach them, activities to do, that kind of thing. And ... no.

So's you know, I looove me a good GN. I had the wildest crush on Dick Grayson all the way through high school and college. (Perhaps part of the reason I gave up on dating was that REAL guys just couldn't compare. One of them changed my mind...) I've got a big ol' stack of my own comics and GNs back in our library. And they're not collectibles. Or, rather, they may be, but I wouldn't know. I just love the stories and the way the layout and the text styles and the images all work together. It's fantastic.

And that kind of gets into why I don't teach them. There is just SO MUCH THERE. And so much of it is sooo subtle. It's like intensely studying diction only with, like, half a dozen techniques AT LEAST.

Think about this. How many Hs should be in a 'KERASSHHHH!!!' and why? Should the artist make one syllable larger than the other (haha, I typed 'louder' at first, but that's WHY it would be done that way, of course) or keep them even? What color should fill in the letters? Should it be shaded?

Realize that the decisions above for ONE WORD involve a team of about four people (writer, artist, colorist, inker). That's not including the editor, but when you've got a good team with a good editor, the editor can mostly trust the team. :)

And so many students come in with ZERO background in GNs. Teaching drama raises similar issues, but in that case at least students have the experience of watching TV and movies. Graphic novels are something completely - well, novel!

I just don't see how you can teach graphic novels with ANY level of depth in a core class. But I'd loooove to have an elective fully devoted to them.

Because short pants and elf boots are cute! ;)

Of course, even before we get to the curricular difficulties, there's also the EXPENSE. I'd have to go with shared copies, and even then... I just can't imagine getting started for under two grand. *sigh*

Image thanks to http://superheroes-wallpapers.blogspot.com/


Mrs. Chili said...

I don't teach graphic novels, either, though I've been intrigued by Persephone and Maus. I don't teach them because I have literally zero experience with them...

Ms C said...

American-Born Chinese is another really really good one.

Rachel said...

All three mentioned above me ARE good. I loved ABC.

This brings up an interesting discussion, though. Is it worth teaching even if you can't (due to time or experience) get EVERYTHING out of a work worth having? I'd rather expose the kids to something new, possibly reach some kids who consider themselves non-readers but could really enjoy GN, and get an idea of some themes and techniques rather than not doing any for fear of not doing a GN enough justice. Obviously we get in-depth in any novel I teach, but I don't know that we ever completely cover everything in it! I say do it!

(and then maybe you can have enough kids with an interest that you could easily lobby for the elective class! :D )

Clix said...

IMO, the point of teaching different genres is to be able to show what's different about them. And if I can't do that, I'm going to avoid teaching the genre(s) that are NOT required so that I can go MORE in-depth with the genres that ARE. Think of it this way: if I add a not-in-depth unit on GNs, I'm sacrificing some depth somewhere else. Not worth it, IMO. I mean, FILM is a genre too. And I've never heard of an ELA class approaching it as a genre of literature. And it totally is.

And I didn't even get started with the issue of local culture. Most GNs are written for audiences with some maturity - superhero books have disproportionate females galore; Persepolis, Maus and others deal with a wide variety of social and political issues. It's hard for us to get a new NOVEL approved - I miiight be able to work with something like Pride of Baghdad or ABC but even then I'm just not sure. Anything new raises the question "What makes this not just good, but better than what we're already doing?" And I think rightly so.

I can expose students to GNs through the classroom library without too much fuss, though, because it's their CHOICE. So I have more freedom that way.

Also that way I don't have to buy as many books. ;)

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